From a young age hats have been a part of my life. At first I wasn’t too keen. I remember going to my first year of school wearing a flat cap just like my grandpas and not liking all the compliments from the teachers. I wanted so much to be like him and though the hat was really cool, but as a shy young boy of four years old I was terrified of the attention. As I got older I was always known for wearing a baseball cap, to point where people would joke I was going to lose my hair. This clearly hasn’t happened with long hair just above my shoulders and no receding hairline in sight. As far back as I can remember my affection for hats began with a complex about my hair. In the days before hair products for men were in fashion (sadly yes I was a child in the 90’s) I never liked my hair. It would never sit the way I wanted it too, my bed-head was often wild and no-one else I knew had the same wavy curls. A common complex for a child to develop, feeling they don’t fit in they adapt and hide their perceived faults. Thankfully as an adult that complex has long passed (my hair is awesome, don’t challenge me), but from the ages of seven to twelve I was always sporting a hat. There were two seminal events from my youth that started my interest in hats. The first was from ridicule, the second from love.
I had never been outside the UK until the age of seven and very possibly not even outside Scotland. If you know Scotland, It’s not famous for its good weather. We get good sunny days, just not many of them and not as intense as mainland Europe. So when on my first holiday abroad it was quite the shock and novelty that my naturally dark brown hair suddenly became blonde. Now to be fair this is quite common but no-one really explains this to children. When I returned home the friends who lived on my street found it interesting and enjoyed the novelty as much as I did but ultimately it wasn’t that important we had lots to do before going back to school and what a return it was. Ridicule and petty childish insults, I had done nothing wrong, but being different is a well known crime after all. To hide my ‘shame’ I went to my trusted baseball cap and they remained part of my life till ‘hair gel’ became a thing. Sure the caps changed with the years but the look was set. My hair returned to its original colour, but who could tell always under a hat. I came to love them like a security blanket. They gave me confidence, I thought I looked cool and I acted fearlessly. There was no adventure too great, all I needed was my trusted hat.
During my baseball cap wearing youth I was never exposed to other styles of hats. The trilby wouldn’t come into fashion until I was in my teens and then quickly out of style before I hit twenty-one (thanks douchbags!). There was however one hat that I idolised, I craved more than any other piece of clothing. I’m sure you’ll find it cliché and obvious but when I first saw a fedora I fell in love. Yet this was no ordinary fedora, it was the fedora of a legend of pop culture. Yes, you’ve guessed it, ‘Indiana Jones’. There on screen was the coolest man I’d ever seen. He was clearly smart, charming funny and women seemed to love him…at least by the end of the movie. Whether or not the character is a role model is another debate, all my young eyes saw was this awesome adventurer with a flawless fashion sense. From my very first film I watched (I believe ‘Temple of Doom’) I fell in love with the theme and that wonderful hat. I still wanted to be a palaeontologist because Dinosaurs were the thing after Jurassic park being recently released. Doctor Grant even had a great fedora too; it just wasn’t as awe inspiring as Doctor Jones. In an age before the internet it was very hard to find proper hats where I’m from, especially for children. Any trips or holidays taken my parents and I would look but could never get it quite right. The love and the passion was always there but I had resigned myself to the fates, I’d never own one of my own. As a teenager hats went away in favour of styling hair gels. In my later teens trilbies came into style and while I liked them my brother got into them first. I don’t know if anyone else feels the same but when a sibling makes a fashion choice you give it to them, I would never want to copy for fear of being called on it. It took me to the age of twenty three to finally find my way back into the embrace of a well fitted hat. I had money to burn and had found the single greatest website I ever stumbled upon. Not only did it sell hats it stocked ‘Indiana Jones’ fedoras. Parting with way more money that my parents or friends could fathom, I ordered, waited patiently and it showed up as a Christmas present all for me. That night I sat with the biggest smile wearing my childhood dream and marathon watched the movies (yes even ‘Crystal Skull’).
After such a great length of time from first falling in love with fedoras, this long awaiting purchase had kick started my continuing love affair. Over the next few years I’d purchase several other hats, differing colours but all still fedoras. I’d found a style to love and it became part of who I was. I became easily recognisable in a crowd, though people rarely spoke with me, I was now “that guy in the hat”. Regardless of the obvious fashion statement, It was something for me. Sure people would notice but their opinions didn’t matter. It’s the simple pleasure of checking yourself out in the mirror as you’re about the leave the house, placing a hat atop your head, adjusting it till it sits just right and getting that bolt of confidence. This is me, this is my look. Yes it’s influenced from a movie character, but round these parts, it completes me. I had no idea however, that being a hat wearer would be fraught with so many perils. Again I would be cursed by the petty childish of humanity, just for being different.
Children themselves can be forgiven. They don’t know any better and it’s not my place to educate them. Besides if I tried I guarantee you I’d be visited my panicked parents, or worse the police. So I ignore the cries or “Cowboy” despite the fact I so badly want to explain the difference. I honestly don’t know why it bothers me so much. I think it’s be inflection used, its meant as an insult, that I look a fool in my hat. I want to sit the children down and give them a lecture on hats so at least if they’re going to make fun of me, they’re being factually accurate. I suppose that’s why I don’t mind the teenagers that scream “Indiana Jones” or sing the theme at me. It also helps they’re teenagers and have so many personality, fashion, communication and hygiene issues begin with, so why pile on. Of course this could have more to do with my choice of hat. A trilby is far more common and recognisable, they’ve seen their favourite pop stars ‘rock’ them, but have no point of reference for my chosen fedora. As much as I’d love to education, the better choice is to leave them to their ignorance and hope they don’t grow up any worse. The comments do become tiresome after a while, but that’s why earphones were created. Volume up, drown them all out, but just be careful when crossing the roads. Cars are quieter than you think with music blaring in your head.
When off out to a pub or a club and you’ve chose to wear a hat and you’re the most popular person there. Not because anyone likes you or cares about what you have to say. They just want a shot of your hat. Everyone wants their photo taken and all the drunks think it’s funny to steal. You’d think as someone of above average intelligence I’d learn not to go out with a hat on. Sadly I’ve not and continue to make the same mistakes. A gentleman never wears a hat indoors (baseball caps are exempt from this in my mind), it will remain in your hand, the table or your lap till its time to move on. Yet as soon as a stranger notices you have it, they need to have it. Countless times I’ve had to chase after drunk men who think it’s funny to take it. I was even once viciously attacked because I reclaimed my hat from a thief. My love for my fedora remains the same. I will not be forced to change just because I don’t fit into a certain group. Your group’s full of disgusting human beings, I’m fine over here on the outskirts, you know, being of actual value to society. If I were to walk up to someone and take their coat, their bag, their shoes, any other piece of clothing I would suffer consequences. Be it thrown out of the pub, getting beat up or having the police involved. Why then is a hat not treated with the same respect? As far as I can figure there is no answer for this. The sad truth is if I was to go out, I’m not allowed to go out as myself because I don’t fit in with the other people.
There’s no escaping the apparent lack of respect hats get, or possibly the lack of respect in me. Even in the middle of the afternoon waiting at the bus station I’ll get comments, passers-by will ask to wear it and general idiots will run past to steal it from my head. Why do strangers want to steal my happiness? What possibly pleasure do they get? Is it just the novelty of something that’s not normally in your life? I often wonder if maybe the main reason for my strife is simply where I live. Despite it all I won’t let small minded people bring me down. We all express ourselves in different ways. As writers and readers here we know this to be true. Yet there’s nothing as perilous to a hat wearer as unpredictable weather.
I have every day hats and wearing out hats. My “Indian Jones” replica tops the going out list and as a result doesn’t get worn as often. In its place I have a plain black fedora that goes with everything and maintains the image that I’m looking for. It’s batter and bruised. It’s been blown off several times in a gale and been soaked through by rain. Simply brush it off, leave it to dry and tomorrow it’ll be ready for the next adventure. On a cold blustery day earlier this year, in stormy gale force winds I had my five year old black fedora whisked away from me never to return. I’ve been heartbroken many times in my life and I was once again. You can out grow a shirt or pair of jeans, clothes regularly get replaces either through excessive wear or updating fashions but a hat is different. The same could be said for a jacket but I believe a hat is more personal. You lose a part of yourself and the memories both good and bad come rushing into your mind, flooding you with tales from the past. The hat was never just an accessory but it was you, it was that one affectation that people knew you for and was there on so many adventures through life. It’s true I went on to replace that hat with another like it. It’s also true I bought another two along with it. Yes clothing and accessories are replaceable, but I still miss my original black hat. Who knows how I’d have reacted if it was the “Indiana Jones” one that flew away.
At the end of the day a hat may never bring me true happiness but it does make me smile. Every day as I leave the house and that hat goes on I feel like the world is mine for the taking. Yes the world may look at me strange but it’s very possible they’d have done that anyway. I may not have a lot to show in life, no love, no fantastic career, but I can take solace in the fact I have attained a dream. If the seven year old me knew that when he grew up he’d have not one, but several fedoras like “Indiana Jones”, he wouldn’t care about the other stuff. Hats are cool…
If you’re in the UK and are interested in fine millinery I’d recommend visiting ‘Village Hats’ at www.hatsandcaps.co.uk
And if anyone from Village hats is reading this, I may be needing something for the summer so recommendations are encouraged. As is anyone who has there own favourite hat retailer they’d like to share, feel free to comment below!